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Letters: We will not tolerate exploitation of our grandfather

Letters: We will not tolerate exploitation of our grandfather

It is with great disappointment on the eve of the passing of our grandfather, we, the granddaughters of Norris Nez Sr., discovered an article titled “Preserving our Traditional Culture” by Patrick Scott of Tuba City, in the Leading the Way magazine, Volume 16 No. 3.

This article articulated misleading and alarming information about our grandfather, the late Norris Nez Sr., and Henry Yazzie.

This article written by Patrick Scott utilized strategic wording insinuating that Mr. Scott’s son was “following” and/or insinuating he was learning the Night Way chant from our chei and father. These written and documented statements are untrue and were not validated with our immediate family members.

The content within this article is slanderous, salacious and malicious and should have been validated through responsible journalism.

We, the family of the late Norris Nez Sr., are still here. We are still amongst the traditional practitioners and engage in ceremony, we are accessible and deserved to be contacted to ensure the integrity and character of this respectable Hataa?lii be maintained, despite the lack of his physical presence upon this earth amongst the Diné people he so dearly cherished and loved.

It further alarms me that Mr. Scott would have the audacity to include the name of Norris Nez Sr. in an article that encourages the precious Diné teachings be shared with non-Diné. I assure you, Norris Nez Sr. on multiple occasions, multiple locations and in the presence of Diné and non-Diné expressed this belief that these teachings should be protected to the fullest extent.

We grew up around my grandfather and my father and are consistently learning the ceremonial process. But by no means do we call ourselves an expert and/or an apprentice in this context. We have come to appreciate and admire those apprentices that we have observed learning from our chei and father through their dedication of full-fledged, full-time and hands-on learning.

We can speak of learning our cultural ways of life, but my chei also used to say the day would come when our ceremonies are non-existent or practiced by non-Diné and that would be the day we as Diné would cease to exist.

He was a staunch supporter of our youth learning and participating in the ceremonial process, but this also came with obligation to protect who we are as Diné.

We are not trying to discourage or disrespect the learning process of our youth, but that we should be cautious as to how we portray our elders and belief/traditions. We have been exploited enough as Diné and as indigenous people, but to exploit each other should not be tolerated and should be discouraged.

We will not tolerate the exploitation of our grandfather, the late Norris Nez. Sr., and his family for the purposes of self-gain or notoriety.

Maredith Thomas
Richelle Thomas
Coalmine Mesa, Ariz.

Justice needed for Red Valley gas leaks

I read in the Navajo Times an article called “Tour finds toxic gas leaks in Red Valley” (Jan. 18, 2018), written by Pauly Denetclaw. I read that there’s a toxic leakage in wells near Buffalo Pass in the Chuska Mountains.

Pete Donker detected the gas leak by an infrared camera. Earth workers and Diné C.A.R.E investigated oil wells and found out the bad condition, and then how the drill site had an open pipe on the ground letting the toxic fumes into the air.

What I think about the gas leak is that it is very dangerous to live with. Toxic gas spreading everywhere it will be a huge effect to our health and the new generation of kids in Red Valley.

The company who put and drilled the oil well probably didn’t care and did it just to get paid but never thought about how chemical gas can affect nature, in terms of environmental racism.

It may be a huge impact into our crops, because in this community we grow crops and sell it in other places. It may spread sickness, too, where it may also really impact women who are pregnant.

What we want you to do is on behalf of Red Valley and its people are to make some changes to this leakage. First, we want you to pinpoint the location of the pipeline, ask for universal protection from indiscriminate nuclear testing, the production and discarding of toxic waste, toxins and testing of nuclear material that threaten the very important right to clear the air, water, land and food, in other terms it’s environmental justice.

Then tell the Navajo Nation president about the toxic fumes, because he has the authority to decide overall changes.

In Red Valley, explain how the fumes might affect Red Valley and its people.

And be sure the pipeline won’t leak again.

I’m Janessa John, and I stand for Red Valley and its people.

Janessa John
Red Valley, Ariz.

Prevention through education

In response to the article “School threats pepper Nation, border towns” (March 1, 2018), I would like to elaborate more about prevention through education regarding school shootings and threats across the Navajo Nation and neighboring towns.

It’s been an eye-opener to be reminded often of the innocent lives that were taken recently in the school shooting here in the Four Corners, Aztec High School and in the state of Florida.

Although not personally acquainted with the families who suffered the loss of their children, and my glimpses of the tragedies came only from TV/media, a large part of me grieved along with the anguished parents, shedding tears beyond despair. I felt helpless. Being a parent and a grandparent, I can only start by addressing parents and children.

I have yet to see or hear local communities addressing the issue of school shooting and gun violence. Why? Do we want our children safe at school or do we have to make the choice to send our children to school at our own risk? Schools have the responsibility to keep our children safe.

Parents, we are examples as leaders to our children. Our children look up to us. Let’s be connected with our children’s everyday lives — if you are not, let’s reconnect.

We need to know where our children are at all times. We need to know who they are with and why, we need to know when to expect your children home, etc. Children need guidance and boundaries. We, as parents/guardians, are responsible for our children’s actions up to the age of 18 years old.

Children are vulnerable. If they are living in an environment that is not stable or if they are exposed to domestic violence, drinking, drugs, or other harmful behaviors, the children will be affected.

We do not know the state of mind that triggers these violent outbursts. Inform your child that this kind of behavior is not normal and that consequences are severe.

So, please, take time for our children/youth.

Children, you are our future. I plead with you, Shí Yazhi, as a parent and a grandparent to stop the unnecessary threats and violence within our schools. Just imagine the local, state and federal resources being wasted to respond to an unnecessary threat.

Do you know what such a threat does to your classmates, your friends, parents, school faculties and responders, as well as to your community? How would such a threat make you feel if it were directed at your school, your classmates, or you?

Due to several lockdowns recently at Kirtland Central High School, as a parent, I felt the need to research further on what was happening. I was not about to sit back and have threats of gun violence endanger my son’s education process, safety and overall well-being along with roughly 750 other students, so I visited KCHS last week and spoke to the assistant principal.

I had a list of questions to ask about the safety protocols, if any. The assistant principal answered all my questions and concerns, and I left feeling that my son under most circumstances would be OK. I learned the difference between a lockdown and a lockout.

So, parents/guardians, please get involved and be active to promote your child’s safety and well-being while at school. Remember, prevention methods and activities will maximize security, safety and awareness while minimizing the disruption of the educational process, resources and reducing potential escalating threats.

I want to express my gratitude to all law enforcement, faculty and school administrators that are or have been working on safety protocols.

Also, attention KCHS parents/guardians, please come to the parent advisory meeting March 27 at 5:30 p.m. in the KCHS library. There is still room for improvement and the opportunity to be heard. Thank you for your time.

Angelina Martin
Kirtland, N.M.

Navajo Transportation taking over BIA roads

We often wonder how and why certain events happen or certain situations occur within the Navajo Nation government. I am writing this editorial to bring awareness to the Navajo Nation people.

I am sure you’ve all heard of Navajo Department of Transportation and their five-year or 10-year plan in one way or another.

NDOT has been working on taking over the Bureau of Indian Affairs Roads Department, both at the BIA Area Office in Gallup and the five agency offices. Well, the deadline of NDOT taking over and assuming all responsibility is fast approaching and about to be a done deal where Navajos who are employed will soon be unemployed if not already unemployed.

Add this statistic to the existing high unemployment rate on the Navajo Nation. What happened to those campaign promises like “I will create employment” and “I will bring companies on to the nation” or “I will make infrastructure flourish.”

Now, in regards to a Navajo Nation enterprise owned by the Navajo Nation, which has created plenty of jobs for the Navajo people, Navajo Engineering and Construction Authority was created in 1972 by resolution of the Navajo Tribal Council. With the resolution NECA has become one of the most efficient and profitable enterprises on the Navajo Nation.

NECA did not accomplish this success alone. They partnered with BIA through ’93-638 or MOAs with the government for utility work. NECA is also working with Navajo Tribal Utility Authority. This success developed over time with the grassroots of our Navajo people, where the teaching started for many.

Presently, NECA is in a situation where I feel that NDOT and the Navajo Nation president is eliminating the very existence and creation of NECA who strive to provide employment to the Navajo people, nationwide (remember that NECA was created by the Council).

NECA has built over 750 miles of roads throughout the Navajo Nation in partnership with BIA. NECA has the experienced personnel and are more than qualified to meet the challenges of NDOT and the Navajo Nation president.

I have listened to NDOT reps with one BIA rep on the radio and attended two community outreach meetings. When questions are asked of NDOT reps, they avoid answering them or instead find a roundabout way to answer them. I strongly believe that NDOT is not ready to take on this challenge of roads.

Like every business venture, there are policies and procedures, even business laws, in place to adhere to. One is the Navajo Business Opportunity Act, which NECA was listed as a priority two. Therefore, our bids were not being opened. As a result, NECA has taken the initiative to establish itself as a priority one to compete with other bids of similar nature … then the rules changed.

Currently, NECA is able to compete and submit their bids on jobs within the Navajo Nation along with other “non-Native” companies and NDOT is doing due diligence by opening our bids. By now, after “jumping through hoops” to appease business regulations, you would think that NDOT and the Navajo Nation president would take great pride in knowing that a Navajo Nation enterprise located on the Navajo Nation has been doing road work for many years and are well qualified to perform this type of work.

Not only is NECA capable of doing road work, NECA also sustains employment for our Navajo people and provides training to maintain a safe and high quality product for the Navajo Nation. Now that Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye is the official contracting officer for NDOT’s bids/projects, more reason to support NECA.

As for the oversite for NDOT, the Regional Development Committee has been enlightened on NECA’s position during its presentation to them in 2017.

NDOT hosted a public outreach at Shiprock Chapter on March 1, 2018, where I made a verbal statement to Mr. Taff Blackhorse requesting that NECA be included in their plan to work as partners with NDOT and not to ignore or blackball due to political or personal reasons.

NECA employees are Navajo people, too. As employees, we are not asking to run your department or control your finances or dispute the Navajo Nation president’s directive. What we are asking for is a memorandum of understanding between NECA and NDOT to work together in order to bring success and employment to our nation.

Taff Blackhorse then mentioned the rules of being a priority one status and explained the law. Rules, policies, regulations and laws can be amended or totally rewritten to benefit the nation. If this law or rule is the one item prohibiting NDOT and NECA to form a long-lasting Navajo Nation business relationship, then it is time for our elected Navajo Nation Council delegates (RDC) to amend the law.

Seems very simple, just don’t understand why it is always a struggle to bring unity, which could only benefit the Navajo Nation and its people.

Raymond Smith
Shiprock, N.M.

Editor’s note: Raymond Smith is manager of human resources for the Navajo Engineering and Construction Authority.

Fluency test fails in face of reality

Shi’ dine’e’, my people: Nationwide we are watched and scrutinized for our lack of “political” acumen. This is so because Navajo “politics” is influenced by historical traditions and beliefs, which stand strong even today – not by off-reservation practices.

This has developed into our decisions to support candidates who we believe can and will make our lives better. Rhetoric, good or bad, is now a big part of campaign practice.

The recent effort in 2014 to take control of the Navajo election system prompted some assertive, devious diversionary tactics to eliminate a candidate who is a totally qualified president. What a shame.

According to the Navajo Nation Code, qualifications for president and the vice president, number 3 states: Must be able to speak and understand the Navajo and English language; and this ability shall be determined by the Navajo voter when he/she casts a ballot.

The assertion that candidates must speak and understand Navajo and English fluently was merely to eliminate the threat of a qualified person. In years past there wasn’t any action to test one’s language ability.

Furthermore, establishing a panel of Navajo linguists to accomplish this task was purely a perfunctory gesture to show that something was being done to address the concern. How the panelists were selected is anyone’s guess.

A final but very pertinent question is: Why weren’t all presidential candidates tested?

Any further discrimination of this sort will only discourage and disqualify our young people who will choose to come home to participate in our government and even go for leadership positions.

Yes, the younger generation has co-mingled off-reservation away from their traditional families for jobs and/or education. But most remain tied to their upbringing in Navajoland.
So this demand for “fluent” Navajo speaking candidates is self-defeating as our young people are preparing themselves to return and move Navajoland into the next century.

This calls for damage repair. This means, let’s learn from history. Since the Navajo Code does not specify “fluent,” let’s take a deep breath and stick to “speak and understand the Navajo and English language.”

Having been in all 110 chapters, I would venture to say that at least 50 percent of our young people do not fluently speak and understand the Navajo language. That does not make them any less Navajo – they were born Navajo and they will always be Navajo. Their hearts are Navajo and that is the “glue” that binds us all together. Ha’goo nee’.

Wanda MacDonald
Tuba City, Ariz.

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